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When my best friend got married, I had to write a toast as the maid of honor. Friends since we were 13, we had many years of memories for me to sort through, and what stood out in my memory was all of our shared experiences: youth group ski trips, summer camp, birthday parties and road trips. What stands out the most are the missions trips we took to Mexico during every spring break in high school.
The first trip really solidified our friendship because it created the kind of unique bond that only happens during that kind of intense shared experience. (The fact that we shared a two-person tent for a week also helped!) For both of us, it was our first time in a foreign country, the first time we saw extreme poverty, the first time our focus was on serving others for an extended period of time. Basically, it was the first time either of us had ever been completely out of our comfort zones.
Serving together, whether in a foreign country or for the neighbor across the street, can be an important way to develop and deepen friendships — and community in general. I think this happens for several reasons, the first being that serving often unites people through a shared passion. We tend to find causes we believe in to serve, and finding that shared passion can be a great starting point in building a friendship.
Second, a lot of service opportunities require us to get out of our comfort zone. That can mean we see parts of ourselves that require some pruning. Going through that with a friend who knows you and whom you trust is helpful to process the things God is revealing to you.
Third, while serving, you spend a concentrated amount of time with someone. Friendships are built over time, and serving together means lots (sometimes a little too much) time together that is more intentional than just hanging out, watching a movie.
How has serving together helped develop or deepen your friendships?
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--Interestingly, I just got back from a weekend trip to Mexico. It is like that. (We did watch part of "The Bible" TV Series as a movie one night.) But we also had the chance to prepare meals for all the kids in the orphanage, giving the staff a weekend break. Members of our team led worship and did the sermon at Sunday service. We cleaned everything, moved rocks, sorted all the food in the pantry. And I got the chance to go buy propane in another country in another language. With the wrong kind of currency, so we needed a calculator too for the exchange rate. And propane is sold in metric. But it was very satisfying.
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